Category News

Why tiny Belize is a world leader in protecting the ocean

Across the turquoise water by the mangrove, forest ranger Allan Halliday spots a fishing skiff. “We’re going over to say hello,” he says, before abruptly changing the boat’s direction. But his real task is to check the couple on board have the licence to fish in this part of the Port Honduras Marine Reserve, one of nine designated zones in Belize.

“We aren’t complaining but others do,” says Alonzo Reymundo, of the rules that now restrict Belize’s 3,000 commercial fishers to two geographic areas each. He and his wife Anselma have been fishing off southern Toledo for 30 years and their boat is laden with 50 or so pounds of shrimp – more than enough, he says, flashing his licence. Today’s catch will be sold as bait and fetch around 330BZ$ (£135), he says.

But not a...

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Trump throws cold water on climate change threat to coral reefs

A Goliath grouper on Aquarius Reef Base, Florida Keys

When pollsters informed President Donald Trump that he faces political exposure in the 2020 election with swing voters on environment policy, he decided to respond with a White House address claiming stewardship of clean water, air and oceans.

But as some Trump aides were drafting that speech, others were casting doubt on the significance of a climate threat to a key battleground state: the degradation of coral reefs in Florida.

Weeks before, a senior intelligence analyst at the State Department had submitted a draft of planned testimony to Congress detailing the national security implications of climate change for White House review.

Among the edits that the analyst, Rod Schoonover, received back from the White House was a novel argument...

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Industrial fishing behind plummeting shark numbers

Hammerhead Shark

A team of researchers, led by international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London), has discovered that sharks are much rarer in habitats nearer large human populations and fish markets. The team also found that the average body size of sharks and other marine predators fell dramatically in these areas, where sharks are caught and killed intensively for their meat and fins.

The study, published today in the journal PLOS Biology, shows that the average body size and number of sharks and other marine predators — vital to maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems — fell significantly in proximity to cities with more than 10,000 people and associated fishing fleets.

The minimum distance from people and fishing which had no measurable effect was 1,250 kilometres...

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Heat wave over Greenland causing massive ice melt

The heat wave that smashed high temperature records in five European countries a week ago is now over Greenland, accelerating the melting of the island’s ice sheet and causing massive ice loss in the Arctic. Greenland, the world’s largest island, is a semi-autonomous Danish territory between the Atlantic and Arctic oceans that has 82 per cent of its surface covered in ice. 

The area of the Greenland ice sheet that is showing indications of melt has been growing daily, and hit a record 56.5 per cent for this year on Wednesday, said Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist with the Danish Meteorological Institute. She says that’s expected to expand and peak on Thursday before cooler temperatures slow the pace of the melt.

More than 10 billion tonnes of ice was lost to the oceans by surf...

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Plastic bag sales down by 90% in England

Turtle eating plastic

Sales of single-use plastic bags at the seven biggest retailers in England have plummeted by 90 per cent since the introduction of a 5p charge in 2015, Government figures show. The decline was hailed by the newly installed Environment Secretary, Theresa Villiers, as “a powerful demonstration that we are collectively calling time on being a throwaway society”. Campaigners against plastic also welcomed the impact of the charge, credited with a dramatic change in consumer behaviour.

It follows huge falls in plastic bag use in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which all introduced the levy sooner.

Britain beating plastic bags

Julian Kirby of Friends of the Earth said: “What an amazing difference good legislation makes...

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A third of Guam reefs killed by rising ocean temperatures

Guam coastal region

Researchers have found that a third of Guam’s coral reefs died due to rising ocean temperatures. The Pacific Daily News reported Monday that University of Guam researchers say increased temperatures killed 34% of Guam’s coral reefs between 2013 and 2017.

The scientists say about 60% of the reefs along Guam’s eastern coast are gone.

Researchers say they have never before seen reef deaths as “severe” as the new findings.

The study was published in the scientific journal Coral Reefs.

A multi-agency Guam Coral Reef Response team monitors the island’s reefs and tries to revive coral communities in line with a 2017 recovery plan.

Researchers say elevated global carbon dioxide output is to blame for the heightened water temperatures.

Local contributing factors include the islan...

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How China can be a friend to ocean conservation

An industrial revolution is beginning in the oceans. Historically, the most valuable commodities drawn from the sea were products like cod, pearls, and sponges. The currencies of this new ocean economy are different: kilowatts of energy, shipping containers, metals, data, desalinated water, DNA, and oil, to name a few. The marine industrial economy has been valued at $1.5 trillion and is predicted to grow at double the rate of the rest of the global economy by 2030.

A sometimes unappreciated aspect of this recent explosive industrial marine growth is that its distribution is highly uneven. In fact, many key facets of the new ocean economy have been dominated by one nation: China.

China, for example, leads the world in industrial fishing...

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Can this map save coral reefs?

With satellites the size of a loaf of bread — and some artificial intelligence — scientists and researchers are mapping the world’s coral reefs in an effort to conserve and restore the marine organism.

Since its launch this past October, the Allen Coral Atlas has grown to include data from coral reefs across six geographic zones. As the project approaches its one year anniversary, members of the Allen Coral Atlas team gathered at Vulcan Inc.’s Seattle offices on Thursday to present findings and look ahead at what’s possible with the bank of images and corresponding data.

The project is an initiative of Vulcan, founded by the late Paul Allen, who was an avid diver and witnessed the threats to reefs firsthand...

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Ocean Cleanup, the mission against plastic sets off again

After returning to shore last January due to a fault, the floating barrier has set sail towards the Pacific Trash Vortex once again with the aim of removing the largest plastic island floating in the ocean. The Ocean Cleanup mission is giving it another go, not letting the first obstacle bring it to a permanent halt: the machine, whose full name is Ocean Array Cleanup, is a barrier designed to carry out the greatest ocean cleanup operation ever. 

Boyan Slat, the mastermind behind the project, announced via Twitter that it’s currently at sea headed towards the Pacific Trash Vortex, the largest plastic island on the planet.

Give it another go, Wilson

In late 2018, the 600-metre long machine called Wilson was damaged by continuous exposure to waves and wind, causing a 2...

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Fears cod stock could be ‘decimated’ due to trawling loophole

Marine wildlife in a vast area of ocean to the north of Scotland is at risk from trawlers because of a gaping loophole in international fishing regulations.

Over 4,000 square kilometres of seabed on the West Shetland Shelf – where endangered cod, starfish and anemones are meant to be protected – are due to open up to trawling on 14 August.

A European Union (EU) ban on trawling for cod in the area is being lifted, while plans to restrict fishing as part of a “marine protected area” have been delayed and won’t come into force for many months.

One trawler skipper fears that the area will be “totally decimated within 48 hours”, and there are concerns that Orkney’s creel fishing industry will be harmed...

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